In a conversation on Quora I used the following expression.

I don’t feel that you’re getting my point and I start to worry you got triggered, possibly recognizing own conduct, hence getting defensive. That said, I reply once again, providing you the benefit of doubt.

On that, someone remarked that the usage of the term triggered implies in certain cultural contexts that I'm an extremist and an intolerant kind. According to the person, my wording bears the resemblance of the type of rhetoric that's used by right-wing trolls thriving on causing good people loose their shit and go bananas.

The person's clear that they don't suspect me of being such a pathetic idiot, let alone accusing me of that. Truthfully so, as I'm sometimes crude but always respectful. So, I'm definitely making effort to alter the original wording to better correspond to the message I'm trying to convey.

NB. The formulation is supposed to be harsh, showing that I'm provoked by the original poster's nagging and lack of respect for me not being ready to provide certain information. So the aim isn't to find a more polite formulation. Rather, to find an equally rude one but without the cultural implication of being a right-wing twittering asshole (quote from the person who made the remark).


Based on the interesting finding in the comments, I realize that I need to clarify the term we're looking for. It's supposed to contain the element of harsh and, if possible, not be interpretable as offending. And in case it's not feasible, I'd prefer a term that is guaranteed to be not offending even if it takes it toll on being harsh. So, make it non-offensive primarily and then, harshify it as far as possible under that ceiling.


Very interesting question! Finding the right expression in this case seems a little difficult because you want to be "always respectful" and yet "harsh".

The meaning of "triggered" in this context is rooted in the modern political usage of the word. And that is why I shall quote the Urban Dictionary (so one can compare it with the alternatives below):

(popular and well known definition) triggered is when someone gets offended or gets their feelings hurt

That's very straightforward. There may be a few alternatives that can convey that meaning (without having the cultural implication or any political tone to it). However, you also have to think if your adversary will be able to understand the alternatives. If they don't understand your expression or words, they won't be affected in the way you want them to be. You want to be harsh, and you want them to feel it.

Do any of these work for you (of course, you will have to adjust the wording surrounding them)?

  1. Easily offended
  2. Thin-skinned (easily hurt by criticism or easily made unhappy)
  3. Irascible (made angry easily)
  4. Petulant (easily annoyed and complaining in a rude way like a child) [needs to be put into context; does not originally state "being offended"; however, it surely implies "being hurt"]
  5. Choleric (very angry or easily annoyed)
  6. Hysterical (unable to control your feelings or behaviour because you are extremely frightened, angry, excited, etc.) [This could be used like "Relax, (or Calm down,) you're getting hysterical" if it is very clear that your adversary is angry and "triggered"]
  7. Squeamish (easily upset or shocked by things that you find unpleasant or that you do not approve of)
  8. Fractious (easily upset or annoyed, and often complaining)
  9. Huffy (angry and offended)
  10. The top voted answer in this ELU post Word or expression for an opinionated and easily offended person suggests someone can dish it out but he or she can’t take it.
  11. Sensitive Sally from Urban Dictionary:

(Definition 2) An emotional male, usually conforming to a metrosexual lifestyle or similar. Very in-touch with their feminine side and feelings, usually seen sporting all the latest fashion trends.

They don't seem to appreciate nor understand trolls, and instead resort to name calling and a response of "nah". Even a slight joke at their expense results in a tantrum, followed by a rage quit. Their inability to get a joke, is usually compounded by their scarf wearing antics.

Most tantrums are ended by a storm off, a commanding flick of their scarf, followed by "good day sir"

(Definition 3) A person who is extremely fragile and easy to offend.

  1. Fragile Ego (?)
  2. Snowflake (an insulting way of referring to someone who is considered by some people to be too easily upset and offended). Also see the definitions in Urban Dictionary.


A comment below states

"Anyway, irascible and choleric are such thesaurus words, and no one ever actually uses these".

This isn't true. A simple google-news search shows their usage. It could be that these words are not often used while speaking, but that is not the same thing as saying "no one ever actually uses these". If that was true, I would expect Cambridge, Collins, and Merriam-Webster to put "archaic" beside them. They haven't done that. I will just list some examples for "irascible" from some reputable sources:

  1. Sanders, an irascible Northeastern liberal, was never a natural fit with many black voters ... - The Washington Post, March 25, 2020.
  2. It was also Trump at his most defensive and irascible. - The Washington Post, March 19, 2020.
  3. Nick Nolte is the irascible Western University coach based ... - USA Today, March 9, 2020.
  4. Trump never pivots to maturity and never meets the occasion; he only exhibits irascible consistency. - NBC News, March 24, 2020.
  5. On the other, Sanders, an irascible firebrand, a self-described “Democratic socialist,” ... - The Star Vancouver, March 4, 2020.
  6. The candidate never lost consciousness and never stopped being his irascible self. - The Washington Post Magazine, March 23, 2020.
  7. Irascible, but mostly composed, ... - The Nation, Feb 26, 2020.
  8. Irascible, uncompromising and ... - The Guardian, March 14, 2020.
  9. Martin Brest’s 1988 buddy comedy, starring Robert De Niro as an irascible bounty hunter ... - The Atlantic, March 20, 2020.
  10. John McEnroe in his prime and at his most irascible makes fascinating viewing. - The Guardian, May 19, 2019.
  11. On the air, he was an irascible, confrontational growler who led pranks and parodies - The New York Times, Dec 27, 2019.
  12. The leaders of the major economies tiptoed around the irascible and unpredictable American president. - The New York Times, Aug 26, 2019.
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  • Snowflake is pretty much in the same league as triggered, although I think the characterization provided by the asker-seeker needs verifying: while the word is certainly evocative of the described sort of person, it's hardly confined to it, especially in a context like in that linked comment thread. I guess I just don't see it. Anyway, irascible and choleric are such thesaurus words, and no one ever actually uses these. They'll just make people (learners of English) feel bad about not knowing them, and they'll unfortunately be added to an already miles-long word list. – user3395 Mar 27 at 2:41
  • @userr2684291 Snowflake has more wide applicability than "triggered". Cambridge lists snowflake with the given meaning (which says it can be used without having any political sense to it). Cambridge does not list triggered in the sense of the meaning it is used now. My take on this is that triggered is more narrowly defined than snowflake - triggered always has a sense of political or cultural sense to it, but snowflake doesn't have that connotation all the time. – AIQ Mar 27 at 3:52
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    I would agree that "snowflake" is, if anything, much worse than "triggered", because "triggered" does potentially have some non-offensive, non-political meanings, but "snowflake" is pretty much only ever used as a (fairly personal) insult, and in the US has come to be used a lot by the "alt right", etc, as well. Also, while "irascible" and "choleric" are occasionally used, they are uncommon enough that I suspect a great many people would not know what they mean without looking them up in a dictionary, which, at best, will harm clarity, and at worst might make you seem pompous or condescending. – Foogod Mar 27 at 15:52
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    @AIQ Your answer is great, no objections there. The comment was meant to elaborate on what I try to convey to the poster at Quora. And yes, I realize the difficulty at finding a proper term. It seems that there's a linguistic correlation between one acknowledging someones negative perception as reasonable and one admitting that it's the most accurate interpretation. I want to express that I respect and understand your raised eyebrows without the need to alter my statement. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 28 at 6:44
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    Also, both the accepted mark and awarded bounty should be clear on my appreciations of your contribution. Still, see the edit to check if you have some thoughts on that. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 29 at 6:46

I don't agree with the person who made the remark, but perhaps among younger people than I it is taken this way. In any case, with the idea that simplest is best, perhaps "upset" is a good substitute.

One more thing: we generally give the benefit of the doubt rather than providing it.

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  • Two thoughts. If I'd use upset (which admittedly is simpler, which is always preferred), I'm afraid that I alter the meaning, although slightly. The way I intended it is to imply that the formulation caught sufficient (negative) attention to cause a reaction whereas becoming upset conveys a notion of caused feeling as well, not merely attention. What do you think? – Konrad Viltersten Mar 27 at 10:17
  • Second thought - good remark on giving instead of providing. Possibly it sounds a bit pretentious? Did you get a sense of condemning in that? Or did you just note that it didn't fell naturally expected? – Konrad Viltersten Mar 27 at 10:19
  • @KonradViltersten I would say that "negative" implies feeling. One doesn't have purely intellectual positive or negative reactions. The positive and negative reactions come from emotions, ergo feelings. So the idea of negativity devoid of feeling doesn't make sense to me. You might consider "reacted" rather than "got upset." – BobRodes Mar 28 at 1:12
  • Good remark. Didn't think of that. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 29 at 6:42
  • @KonradViltersten I'll go just a bit further and share another opinion with you. The idea of "detached negative criticism" that you appear to be attempting to convey doesn't exist in reality. People try to do this sort of thing all the time, and it simply means that they aren't allowing themselves to be aware of the anger they have about whatever they're trying to criticize. Something blunter is more honest, as is the acknowledgement that anger is always a subjective emotion, and therefore "righteous anger" is always "self-righteous anger." (Well, make that two opinions. :) ) – BobRodes Mar 29 at 18:03

I read the conversation linked in the question. This is part of the comment that you are responding to:

hopefully its a culture gap thing but you should reconsider that usage if youre talking to people in North America

Since the writer's profile is not filled out, it is not possible to know their place of residency with certainty. However, I know my own: I live in Ontario, Canada, which is very much a part of North America, and I am used to hearing the word "triggered" used as it is in the mental health field. Having done a lot of reading in mental health, as well as taken some formal university courses, I understand "triggered" in the mental health field to mean that a certain word or incident sent off a strong emotional reaction inside the psyche, and that this manifested in unwanted feelings and/or behaviour, or both.

The only other applicable word I can think of for the situation you describe is "offended." But we don't like being accused of being offended. Somehow, it makes us feel like we are being called weak or coward or even immoral. Then again, maybe that, too, depends on cultural interpretation. If so, there may not be a word to accomplish your purpose that is totally neutral in all cultures around the world.

Having myself been on Quora a good three years, I think I am familiar with Quora's culture. I think your usage of the word "triggered" fits my definition above. Anyone can be triggered by a word or tone of voice they automatically (and often unconsciously) associate with something unpleasant. In my opinion, it is not necessarily such a bad reflection on your character as the commentator suggests. Thus, I say the writer of that comment is wrong; "triggered" is an appropriate word to use for the situation you describe.

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  • Hehe, I like the depth of your research of the persona. I usually only see at what's being said here and now. What's been said before might be irrelevant. People change their their attitudes, mature and improve. And can have the account snatched or abused. That being said, I'm not American at all but I still do understand not to call folks in South US for Yankees, so he might have understanding of culture without being a part of it. He also might not, of course. He might be a she or them, too, now that I think about it. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 27 at 10:32
  • BTW, the downvote isn't mine. I liked your answer and +1'ed it, in fact. – Konrad Viltersten Mar 29 at 6:45
  • Thank you. I have been thinking a couple days about rewriting this answer to better show that who one is is important to my argument. I have now rewritten it. I think it's better. – Sarah Bowman Mar 29 at 14:56
  • Perhaps the person who wrote the original comment on Quora ran across this post, which then triggered a defensive emotional response, which he then acted out by downvoting you. :) – BobRodes Mar 30 at 18:40

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